Renovations still on hold

There is money to improve the James Brown Arena, but there hasn't been a will to spend it.

In the meantime, patrons continue to be forced to sit in old seats and use restrooms that even arena officials have said they refuse to enter.

The oft-complained-about problems are two projects on a laundry list of improvements that a $1 million fund could help pay for. But instead it has been left to sit in the bank, said Richard Isdell, the chairman of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority Building and Grounds Committee.

Things could start looking up for the 27-year-old arena, however. Mr. Isdell aims to overhaul the building with the improvement and extension fund. He said the money shouldn't be kept like a "savings."

"We need to spend the money for capital improvement on the things we know need improvement," he said. "I don't understand why we have rundown restrooms that everyone complains about, and we have $1 million sitting in the bank."

The restrooms - which need an estimated $300,000 renovation - are outdated and are at risk of malfunctioning, George Croft, arena operations manager, said during a recent meeting.

So far, the Coliseum Authority has spent $121,271 of the improvement fund it approved in the 2006-07 budget. Most of that was for new folding chairs and carpet for the building's meeting rooms, according to arena Finance Manager Milton Simmons.

No concrete plan has emerged from the board for the rest of the money. But some board members aren't eager to burn through the fund while it's still unclear what city leaders have in mind for the old civic center.

"I would be reluctant to spend $1 million in the building and then five years from now, we build a new one," said Dr. Wayne Frazier, a member of the building committee. "That would be one million that was wasted."

But, he said, he's open to making some improvements.

Proposals such as the one Mr. Isdell made recently - an awning for the box office - may be going too far, he said.

An architect bidding on the design estimated that project would cost $80,000.

Janice Jenkins said she would like to see the authority stick to a list of improvements that the arena's management staff says have long been needed.

The list was given to board members during budget discussions this year, but they didn't budget specific projects or give certain ones priority, Mr. Simmons said.

What has resulted is work on projects such as the awning or a plaque commemorating James Brown that are not on the list of recommended improvements.

Mr. Isdell said some items on the list don't really need improvement.

As for the awning, it would improve the appearance of the building. And the plaque, he said, should have been taken care of when the building was dedicated in October.

Reach Justin Boron at (706) 823-3215 or justin.boron@augustachronicle.com.

MOST NEEDED RENOVATIONS AT THE JAMES BROWN ARENA

1. Paving and striping parking lots: $400,000

2. Concrete repair on plaza and sidewalks: $200,000

3. Phone system upgrades: $50,000

4. Security cameras: $100,000

5. Stage lighting instruments for Bell Auditorium: $20,000

Source: James Brown Arena